This past week, I was humbly reminded that there isn’t a timeline on emotional healing. A toxic person who caused me great emotional harm and distress to the point where I developed post-traumatic stress disorder from my relationship with them came tumbling back into my life after months and months of not talking in an unexpected email. In that time of no contact, I have done a lot of healing work – therapy, working out, journaling, reading, praying, blogging, eating … you name it, I have probably done it. But it’s funny, as much work as I have done to move my life forward without this person and as much as I have healed, I was not emotionally prepared for what any contact would bring.
While the emotional wound is not completely reopened, their reappearance and how and why they did it has definitely put me into a high state of anxiety; my mind is cycling, feeling like I am having trouble breathing, and this inability to focus on anything. In a true funk that not even exercise, my number one stress relief, can get me out… so what’s a girl to do?
As I sit stewing in all these icky feelings, I think of all the things I have told in clients past what to do when they feel triggered and burdened and riddled with anxiety. And with that, time to put my money where my mouth is and to practice what I preach. So here goes nothing; the list of things to do when you are feeling triggered AF:
- Breathe. I really can’t focus on much else right now but breathing I can do. In the narrator’s voice from Jane The Virgin, “inhale y exhale.” Deep breathing is a pretty basic and standard calming strategy; it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system promoting a sense of calm. Additionally, since breathing is a pretty basic function of living, it requires minimal effort on my part.
- Connect. I am really lucky to have such an amazing and strong support system who got me through the initial trauma of that relationship so that when that individual reached out to me, I have a tribe of people who are there for me. Having people who kept me strong the first go around to validate my anxiety and talk me through the shock, anger, and confusion makes this entire experience less daunting and less scary because I know I am not alone.
- Maintain Strong Emotional Boundaries. While instinctively I would like to ignore my trigger’s email, I know not responding might prompt actual physical contact, and I know that is not in my best interest. Thus I decided to respond. It would be easy to respond bitterly, angrily, and to lash out but that would signal that this individual still has emotional control over me so what do I do? How do I do this? Keeping strong emotional boundaries in this scenario is saying what needs to be said but protecting myself by not inviting further discussion. I keep things short, concise, and all business. No small talk, no idle chitchat, and no wishing the individual well. Just say what needs to be said and be done with it.
- Reality Check Those Emotions. Having someone who hurt you come back into your life in any capacity can bring an onslaught of different feelings which can be confusing, and this has definitely been the case here. But unlike so many others who would like to ignore the hurt feelings that may arise, my emotional intelligence dictates that I recognize each of those feelings by validating that they exist because of the situation, that they are valid and real, and reality checking them against the progress I have made in healing. People are so afraid to feel what they need to feel but neglect to realize that emotions exist to signal us to respond appropriately to our environment and to learn the lessons that are needed to learn.
- Write It Out. As a blogger, I bet you would have all guessed that I like to write, and you wouldn’t be wrong. I have always been a big advocate of journaling and writing your feelings out. Writing can be cathartic; it allows you to externalize positive and negative feelings outside of yourself in a truly reflective way. Writing requires you to be thoughtful and to deliberately process things out, and when you’re done, you have a time capsule of emotions captured on paper to really think on. Even now as I write this and read back, I am enable to see things more clearly that my anxiety has slowly dissipated away almost magically that I am no longer “triggered AF” as I so eloquently stated before.
I hope this blog post is as helpful to someone else out there as it was for me today. When you are triggered by someone or something, the hurt, anxiety, and confusion can be truly awful but like all moments in life, “this too shall pass” so chin up.